More and more foodborne illnesses are resistant to antibiotics. A reason why:
An animal that routinely ingests antibiotics on a farm becomes a "factory" for drug-resistant bacteria, as described by a 2011 article in Clinical Microbiology Reviews. Huge farms known as CAFOs, for concentrated animal-feeding operations, may house as many as 160,000 broiler chickens and 800,000 hogs, a 2008 survey by the Government Accountability Office found.
These farms may pack animals like boxes in a warehouse: Hogs are kept in crates too small to turn around or lie down in, and laying hens are confined in cages the size of a sheet of paper. In badly run CAFOs, this overcrowding leads to filthy conditions that increase disease. When FDA inspectors examined Wright County Egg, an Iowa egg-production facility that likely contributed to almost 2,000 cases of salmonella in 2010, they found mice, flies, maggots and piles of manure up to 8 feet high.
From the link above:
"We've grown depressingly accustomed to the possibility that our dinner might make us sick; 1 in 6 Americans suffer foodborne illness every year, estimates the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta. Still, most of us think of it as a day or two of misery: We cope on our own if symptoms are mild and ask our doctors for antibiotics if they are severe.
As Adams found, however, the bacteria on and in our food—not only poultry, but also meat, eggs, shrimp and produce—are getting harder to knock out. New, drug-resistant varieties of campylobacter, salmonella, E. coli and staph have all emerged. For those of us unlucky enough to catch one of these superstrains, the arsenal of drugs that work is smaller than it is for weaker strains, and treatment becomes more complicated once the bacteria have taken hold. As a result, previously minor infections are putting Americans in the hospital—and, in rare cases, killing us.
Let's run through the stats:
Earlier this year, the CDC was tracking an outbreak that sickened 20 people, mostly in New England, from drug-resistant salmonella linked to ground beef.
Last year, 136 people in 34 states were made sick by resistant salmonella tied to ground turkey, and 12 people in 10 states were made ill by resistant salmonella associated with premade turkey burgers.
A strain of drug-resistant E. coli on salad sprouts sickened nearly 3,900 people in Europe last summer, including six Americans, one of whom died.
There were three known foodborne superbug outbreaks in 2009; two in 2007; and one in 2004—caused by shrimp contaminated with drug-resistant E. coli—that had 130 known victims.
Although the link between farm-bred superbugs and stomach illness is most clear, researchers worry that food may be transmitting other illness as well, including drug-resistant infections of the skin, urinary tract and blood.